From Amnesty International.
Today, February 26, Palestinian residents and activists in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron are holding demonstrations marking 22 years since the Israeli authorities first closed al-Shuhada Street, formerly the city’s commercial centre.
They are protesting against illegal Israeli settlements and demanding the removal of the restrictions on their movement, which are applied only to Palestinians and not to Israeli settlers.
Following a surge in violence and civilians in Hebron and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank in October 2015, the Israeli [occupation] forces (ÎOF) intensified the long-standing restrictions, declaring parts of Hebron’s Old City a “closed military zone” and barring access to Palestinians living elsewhere in the city, as well as human rights defenders.
There has also been an escalation in attacks on human rights defenders – Palestinian, Israeli and international – by the IOF and Israeli settlers in and around the Old City.
“For more than two decades, the Israeli authorities have imposed severe and deeply discriminatory restrictions on Palestinian residents of Hebron’s Old City. The new restrictions have compounded these violations and intensified the collective punishment of tens of thousands of Palestinians, in violation of international law. The Israeli authorities must immediately end all measures that collectively punish Palestinians in Hebron, lifting the arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions imposed since October as a first step,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“Deliberate attacks against civilians are never justified. But arbitrary restrictions on movement, unnecessary use of lethal force, and the arrest, detention and harassment of human rights defenders are not legitimate security measures. By forbidding residents of Hebron from entering certain parts of the city purely because they are Palestinian, while Israeli settlers move freely and illegal settlements continue to expand, the Israeli authorities are flouting international law and perpetuating a cycle of human rights abuses,” Luther added.
al-Shuhada street is vital to Palestinian communal and commercial life. It was the center of the old city’s commercial district before Israeli settlement projects and military rule forced its closure. To this day, the street remain almost entirely closed to Palestinians, while Israeli settlers move freely. The closure of Shuhada Street is a symbol of Israel’s wider apartheid policy of separation.